At long last, we’ve reached what will probably be the final article in the series about my trip to Hong Kong and China. By this stage, I have achieved my primary objective of attending the conference and presenting some secondary outcomes from my research, but we’re not quite done yet.
We were back in Hong Kong, but we only had two full days, and they would be relatively busy. We reached the YMCA Salisbury, near the ferry terminals at Tsim Sha Tsui, just after lunch time. It was a little earlier than expected, so the rooms were not ready yet, as they were likely having a late check-out. We chilled at the lobby, being given just one Wi-Fi log-in to share amongst us. Having informed them we were avid photographers, we were lucky and managed to be given a very good room on the 14th floor (1443). I had some time to unpack and set-up all the gear again, and make contact with everyone just to let them know everything was all in order. As a tech person, I never travel light, and having my gear at hand is always important. After all, my Pennytel VoIP account and physical ATA and handset saved my bacon on numerous occasions …
We managed to check out the room carefully, where we found some complimentary fruit, a nice bath (although without a view from the bathroom), and a few bits of stationary including the post-cards picturing the hotel above.
Given the rush, we relaxed a little while I tried to survey the TV channels. Luckily as there was a cabled aerial, I was able to get signal from their SMATV system, resulting in good DTMB reception, while my chaperone was relaxing in the bath. But before long, we had to leave that evening for the all-important family dinner.
We were picked up by my uncle Herbert, who had an injury to his leg, meaning he was on crutches but was going very quickly, and my aunt Amelia. The route to the restaurant, which was close to my grandpa’s house in Chai Wan, was taken using ‘scenic’ public transport – namely Star Ferry across the harbour, and a route bus.
As it was a special occasion, and a rare one, to have the opportunity to meet my maternal grandpa, it was also an opportunity to demonstrate my growth as a responsible adult, so I was given the honour of shouting the table. That being said, it was all just family money in the end, but more of a symbolic gesture. It was good to see that he was still managing, despite his age, and he was still quite mentally alert at that time.
Sadly, some of the relatives couldn’t make it for this last meeting of the trip, owing to sickness from the flu, and others were overseas re-commencing their study for another semester. But I had already met them earlier, although I didn’t have any photos on my phone. More importantly, I was able to meet with my uncle Hung, who bought us the goods we had entrusted to keep with him, so as to avoid bringing it across to China and potentially arousing suspicion. Unfortunately, he was so busy at the factory that he promptly had to return to work after dinner.
To save time, and to prevent needless back and forth, we settled on the relatives hailing us a cab to return to the YMCA. When asked whether to take the tunnel, I said “whichever is faster”, which resulted in the driver taking the tunnel, collecting additional toll charges, and taking a longer scenic route back to the hotel. In doing so, I got to see what was the remnants of the old airport from many angles, which I thought was nice. After all, I didn’t mind the money, nor the time, as I was enjoying looking out the window of a “foreign” place. That night, we rested well in the comfort that we had survived China, but not without trying to get a shot out of the window.
I wasn’t particularly too interested in venturing anywhere during the day, and was happy to sleep in, and enjoy the room somewhat. We got out for breakfast at a decent time, and had set the do-not-disturb indication on the door, and nicely, they obeyed resulting in the following letter – our crowning achievement!
We didn’t need any housekeeping, so we were good. Breakfast was good, although the variety was different. Instead, that day, I would enjoy a bath and have some night time photography instead. What I didn’t count on was the arrangements to get to the airport requiring me to do some calling around because of last minute changes with the relatives due to illness, speaking in Cantonese (which I am not adept with), and dealing with mobile reception that was absolutely hopeless. In the end, that all got sorted, but not without a lot of stress and “jumping out of the bath” to answer the phone.
Around the Tsim Sha Tsui area, we have the regular laser light show to look forward to. Named “A Symphony of Lights“, it’s a permanent exhibit which runs every night at 8pm for 13 minutes, and features co-ordinated lights around the city buildings and music.
Many tourists stood to watch the entire show, although the show itself felt a little dated. Some “advertising” boats were trawling the area, which spoilt the photographs and views of a number of people. After the show, after all the people had dissipated, I could manage a nice panorama of the skyline from the Tsim Sha Tsui side.
Around that area was an arts centre of sorts as well, where I took this selfie of myself inside a reflective “pole”.
We took a quick walk inside, and the pattern of the lights proved to be quite interesting when viewed through a fisheye lens.
We strolled around and visited the site of the former train station at Kowloon, along with the clock tower that remains.
On the way back, we visited the 1881 heritage site at night, which had been prepared for festivities.
By this time, I have pretty much had my fill of the day, and thus ends the last whole day in Hong Kong. By tomorrow evening, we will have departed. I slept well, and pre-packed for a complete pack the next day.
We had another lazy day, and a last bath, before concluding the packing, checking out, and then, we were picked up by the boss of the van delivery company used by my grandpa and uncle’s business, to deliver us to the airport and return our borrowed wheelchair to my uncle.
The journey was smooth to the airport, and he was more than helpful to push me into the terminal where we could transfer to a seat. Now begins the fun of returning back to Australia.
The Airport Saga
Arriving to the airport was no big deal, but getting myself sorted was. The first hurdle was to find a wheelchair. It turns out the airport information desk has loaner wheelchairs, but are only to be used to the check-in counters and cannot be taken through the secured area, and we needed to transfer to airline-provided wheelchairs to complete the journey.
Qantas was no longer a big airline at Hong Kong, especially after the deal with Emirates, so their staffing was minimal and consisted of contract staff from SATS international. As a result, it took a little while to find the counter, which was not open at that time. We queued at the first position and waited dutifully.
Upon opening, we checked in our luggage, which proved to weigh the same as we came in (which is good). But when it came to organizing wheelchairs, we had met a hurdle – the flight had no gate number yet, so they couldn’t “schedule” the service. We were perplexed. After a little fussing and getting the duty manager, who was calling around frantically to get a gate number, they finally made it clear that they did not loan out wheelchairs, and instead, have a chaperone who will wheel you through immigration processes to the gate and leave you there to return once the boarding commenced. Crazy, we thought.
These wheelchair chaperones were in high demand as well, as despite getting a “most probable” gate number, they were not able to get one for another half hour. Upon actually getting one, we were approached by the duty manager with a new piece of misinformation which claimed that there were loaner wheelchairs from the airport’s help desks inside the secure area. In all, I was wheeled to the gate to a seat, and left with no chair and a few hours to kill. In that state, all I had was an airport trolley for steadying myself if I had to go to the toilet … pretty ordinary.
The key take-away was that Worldwide Flight Services was the subcontractor in charge of providing wheelchair service. All outsourced. I was to sit and wait until they returned to bring me to the plane.
But of course, it doesn’t end there, as my family friend decided to go and try to grab one of those wheelchairs for me. Unfortunately, he had reached an information counter who were perplexed as they claimed no such service existed. After a bit of further head scratching, he was sent to another information counter across the airport with the claim that they had them – but they didn’t, and he was to return back to the original counter. Upon returning to the original counter, he was then told he could rent them if pre-booked and paid for, although the chairs were not even in sight. Fed up with this constant misinformation, he returned empty handed.
I had no idea how bad the struggle can be for disabled people until I had to experience it myself. It was totally night and day – in Sydney, there were an excess of chairs available, which can be taken from check-in to the doors of the plane, and everyone was all happily getting along. Here, it was a case of everything being overstretched.
At least the flight was good, and returning to Sydney returned me to the friendly hospitality of Sydney Qantas staff who were very helpful, unlike the Hong Kong staff. Lesson learned.
All in all, a very successful trip, no doubt thanks to the assistance of all of my family, their friends and relatives. I couldn’t have done this one myself.
As it turns out, throughout the whole blogging series, I had forgotten to put a few things in. For example, in the Big Bus tours, we definitely got up-close and personal with the Peak Tram.
A pretty amazing cable driven system, with quite a bit of “bounce” in it at the stops. I also managed this random image of a couple in front of the AIA Carnival, opposite Central Ferry Piers.
The selfie stick seems to have only taken off from here …
Another souvenir of my trip is the China Mobile Super Roaming $88 SIM card that my uncle had bought for me just to make sure we would stay connected.
That’s all from me. To read any post in the series, look up posts by tag hkcn2014.